Introspection-aholics™ Podcast 010: Esmé Weijun Wang, Speaker, Writer and Advocate

The Introspection-aholics™ Podcast is a bi-weekly mental health and self awareness podcast focused on helping women thrive in their life by showing up for their wellness!

Featuring interviews with real people who suffer with mental illnesses and those support them as well as discussions on general wellness, self care and current mental health talk.

Introspection-aholics™ Podcast 010: Esmé Weijun Wang, Speaker, Writer and Advocate from Kendra Kantor |

Esmé Weijun Wang is an award-winning author and advocate. At her website, she provides resources that assist aspiring and working writers in developing both resilience and mastery on the path to building a creative legacy. Wang’s emphasis on resilience originates from her own experiences as a writer, having learned the importance of adapting to difficult times from living with schizoaffective disorder and late-stage Lyme disease. She studied creative writing and psychology at Yale and Stanford, and received her MFA from the top-tier Creative Writing program at the University of Michigan.

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2:00ish : Rouge from X-men was my favorite superhero. She had the ability to absorb the powers of people by touching them and I think that was the beginning of my fascination with empathy.
2:40ish : My current favorite quote from Ovid: “Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.”
3:30ish : I am wildly a morning person. I wake up between 3 and 4 am and I go to bed around 7pm.

3:50ish : I first developed depression when I was 11. For me it lined up with the onset of puberty. I started seeing a therapist at 16.
4:15ish : I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17. I had my first manic episode the summer before I was supposed to go to college.
4:45ish : I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder at 29.

5:05ish :A combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder which in my case is bipolar disorder.

DSM-IV-TR criteria: Schizoaffective Disorder (295.70). A. An uninterrupted period of illness during which, at some time, there is either a Major Depressive Episode, a Manic Episode, or a Mixed Episode concurrent with symptoms that meet Criterion A for Schizophrenia.

5:40ish : I experience psychosis in times when I’m not manic or depressed. Symptoms like loss of all motivation, hallucination or delusions. I have experienced both.
7:05ish : I have had delusions where I believed I was dead. Or everyone I loved were replaced by a robot.

7:40ish : I have been on medication since I was diagnosed with depression. I was told about 2 years ago that I have a medication resistant form of Schizoaffective Disorder, which was a very hard thing to be told.

8:12ish : I’ve become really good at self care. That I get enough to eat, that I sleep enough, that I don’t stress myself out too much.

8:50ish : I was hospitalized twice in college. The first time happened after I had a mixed episode my freshman year, when you are experience symptoms of mania and depression.

9:08ish : I’ve been hospitalized a total of 3 times and each time was an involuntary hospitalization. There is a certain amount of trauma that happens when you are involuntarily hospitalized.

9:35ish : I was in there for 10 days the first time.

9:40ish : I think [hospitalization] can be a good thing in terms of having a really acute situation that needs some form of addressing. Maybe you’re not getting the right care in your current situation or maybe you are in danger of hurting yourself.

10:05ish : For me, the times I’ve been in the hospital have tended to do more harm than good. There have been medication changes that have happened but also a lot of lack of autonomy and a lack of self esteem that happen when you’re in the hospital.

10:48ish : The onset of my PTSD came up when I took an incredibly intensive self defense class.

11:00ish : I thought taking this class would be a good opportunity to feel more secure. I don’t regret taking the class, but I do think that it may have triggered the onset of PTSD.

11:30ish : I would get really hot and cold at night. I became extremely hypersensitive to sound and light and smells.

12:25ish : I’ve experienced stigma for being a woman, being a woman of color.
12:40ish : In terms of my mental disorders there’s been social stigma and self stigma.

12:55ish : Often, I think the stigma is not meant to be harmful. I think people just don’t understand and in not understanding might end up doing some hurtful things.

13:40ish : Sometimes I can judge myself harshly or think mean things about myself. But it’s a journey so I’m constantly working on those things.
14:15ish : Major turning point in my life was in late 2013, I had experienced a lot of psychosis that year. When I was returning from a trip to England, I fainted on the plane.

14:50ish : I had a psychotic episode and then I started developing some severe psychological symptoms. It was a really hard time. I was getting MRIs and CT scans and we didn’t know what the rest of my life would look like or how long my life would be.
15:21ish : That was a turning point in understanding the fragility of life and thinking about how short and beautiful our time on this planet is. And how important it is to show love and be compassionate and pay attention.

15:58ish : In terms of how [mental illness] has effected my work…I ended up leaving my full time job in 2013.
16:15ish : I don’t think you can’t have a full time job. I chose to leave my job.
16:30ish : I chose to start my own small business. I work just as hard or maybe harder. The flexibility is really something that I need.
16:40ish : My experiences with mental illness have really guided what I choose to focus on. I focus a lot on creative legacy but I also think resilience is an important factor.
17:15ish : I think it’s really important for me to be an advocate and incorporate that into the work I do.

17:30ish : I wrote Light Gets In because when I was first diagnosed and then…I would go to the bookstore and I would try to find a book that spoke to my experience.
18:00ish : It’s very easy to find an applicable book when you are first diagnosed. It’s easy to find the dummies guide to schizophrenia
18:15ish : But what I needed was a book about how to life my life with a mental illness and how to live well and I couldn’t find that.
18:30ish : I was interested in something about thriving.
18:40ish : I was invited to go to a writing residency called Hedgebrook. I looked in a cottage by myself for a month. I decided to put together a book of writings about mental illness. As I was putting it together, I started thinking about who I wanted to read this book. People like me, people who knew mental illness was hard but still wanted to live vibrant thriving lives.

19:30ish : It’s about everyday life, it’s about the difficulties of living with a mental illness but it’s also about the light that gets in.

20:40ish : I am very introspective, I’m assuming that the term is positive and not a pejorative thing.

20:55ish : Sometimes, I’m asked isn’t it a bad thing to dwelling on the negative. To be dwelling on what’s going on inside your head, isn’t it better to just ignore it? There are times when rumination sends you down a dark hole of spiraling things.

21:30ish : I do think that journaling is a form of introspection and it’s one that I engage in everyday.

[To the reader with depression and a chronic physical illness…what is 1 piece of advice to help them start thriving] 22:45ish : You are still you. Remember what makes you who you are. You are still the same person who likes blueberry pie and the person who really likes bloopers and really hates black birds.

23:12ish : I think it’s really to start identifying yourself as the disorder or the disease and for that to take over the things that make you who you are.

Connect with Esmé at her website | twitter | instagram

Sign up for e-letter : legacy notes called Radical Sincerity. It’s about my idea of the ideal of radical sincerity. It talks about authenticity.

If you enjoyed the show, leave a review on itunes.

Want to chat with other introspection-aholics™ ? Sign up here to gain access to my private group The Introspection-aholics™ Anonymous, for women who are ready to start thriving by focusing on self care and improving their mental health.

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